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10 players that the Rams can least afford to lose to injury

Who can the Rams not afford to lose to injury in 2023?

NFL: OCT 30 49ers at Rams Photo by Ric Tapia/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Last season, the Los Angeles Rams were decimated by injury. According to Football Outsiders, they were the second-most injured team in the NFL and they set a record for injuries on the offensive line. The list below will try and determine which 10 players that the Rams can’t afford to lose in 2023. Obviously, the best players are included, but I will also try to consider other factors such as importance to the scheme or the depth behind that player.

1. QB Matthew Stafford

It’s hard not to start this list off with anybody else. The Rams missed Stafford for eight games last season. The only win came against the Las Vegas Raiders on Thursday Night Football in Baker Mayfield’s debut. The Rams will be slightly more prepared this year as they drafted Stetson Bennett, but playing with a backup quarterback is almost always a death sentence in the NFL.

2. DL Aaron Donald

The Rams don’t have a lot of talent on defense, and out of the talent that they do have, Donald makes up around 99.5 percent of it. If Raheem Morris and the defense were to lose Donald for a long stretch like they did last season, it would be very difficult to put together a semblance of a NFL caliber defense.

3. WR Cooper Kupp

Adding Kupp to this list will get the “Big 3” out of the way. The Rams are built around Stafford, Donald and Kupp. If the Rams were to lose Kupp on offense, who would step up? Van Jefferson? TuTu Atwell? Losing Kupp would severely limit the offense as the scheme runs through him.

4. WR Van Jefferson

It may have been underrated how important Jefferson is to the offense going into last season. He entered the year hurt, and then when he did return, it took him a few weeks to get up to speed. Without Jefferson, the offense strictly went through Kupp which severely limited where Stafford was able to go with the football. The Rams are thin at wide receiver behind Kupp and Jefferson. If either player goes down, McVay would be relying on guys like Ben Skowronek and TuTu Atwell to take on a more full-time role. That may not be something that either player is built for given their skillsets.

5. S Jordan Fuller

After losing Taylor Rapp and Nick Scott in free agency, the most experienced player that the Rams have at safety is Fuller. Fuller had a fantastic season in 2021, building on a good rookie campaign. However, he spent most of last year hurt. While the Rams may be able to get by with Russ Yeast and Quentin Lake, Fuller will be the leader in the secondary and someone who is heavily counted on. Without the fourth-year safety, it would likely force Morris to get more basic with his coverages and limit what the Rams can do in terms of defensive scheme.

6. LT Alaric Jackson

I’m expecting Jackson to be the Rams left tackle this season. However, even if it is Joe Noteboom, the Rams can’t afford to lose Jackson to injury once again. Last season, Jackson filled in at right guard and then switched over to left tackle later on in the year. Jackson may be the most versatile player on the Rams offensive line with the ability to play any position outside of center. That’s a good depth piece to have and one that the Rams can’t afford to lose. If he is indeed the team’s left tackle this season, the offense is going to need some stability in that spot. In order to build that stability, they’ll need Jackson to remain healthy.

7. EDGE Byron Young

It’s hard to say that the Rams can’t afford to lose a player that has yet to take a snap in the NFL. However, that’s arguably the case with Young. He’s the most talented edge rusher on the roster. This season will be important experience for Young going forward as Los Angeles look to rebuild its pass rush. Without Young, the Rams are relying on a lot of late day three selections and Michael Hoecht. It’s crucial for Young to stay healthy.

8. LB Ernest Jones

This is Jones’ time to shine. Jones had a strong rookie season and then learned behind Bobby Wagner all of last year. Heading into year three, he is the guy at linebacker. Jones is also the linebacker with the most experience on the roster. Behind Jones, the Rams have Christian Rozeboom and Jake Hummell. I like what Hummell can bring to the table, but as an undrafted free agent who spent last year injured, he may need more time. With that said, losing a player like Jones would be difficult to replace given the depth and experience behind him.

9. LG Steve Avila

Avila has the potential to make an immediate impact on the offensive line. Losing Avila for any period of time would be a detriment to the offense. The Rams do have some depth at left guard with Noteboom and Jackson. However, much like Young, this will be an important year for Avila in terms of getting experience at the NFL level. As we saw last season, injuries on the offensive line can snowball. Replacing one position can sometimes mean replacing two depending on the depth. The Rams can’t afford to lose a player with so much promise early on in his career.

10. CB Cobie Durant

The Rams have a lot of unknowns in the secondary. Durant is a relative unknown, but at least he showed some flashes during his rookie season. Without Durant, the Rams would be relying on Derion Kendrick, Robert Rochell, Shaun Jolly, or possibly someone like Timarcus Davis. If any cornerback goes down with an injury, the options for a replacement will be limited. However, the Rams won’t want to replace their most talented cornerback on the roster who they are expecting to take the next step in his development this season.

Honorable Mentions

I left players like Cam Akers and Rob Havenstein off of this list as I do like the depth behind them. Warren McClendon is a player that I really like as a backup at right tackle. Meanwhile, both Zach Evans and Kyren Williams provide good depth at running back. Tight end would be another option with Tyler Higbee. However, the depth at that spot looks pretty good as well. The Rams traded for Hunter Long and then have Brycen Hopkins and Davis Allen behind him.